Research Activities, July 2013

SmartPill equally effective at detecting gastroparesis and constipation

Comparative Effectiveness Research

A new research review from AHRQ’s Effective Health Care Program finds that the wireless motility capsule (WMC), also known as the SmartPill, has similar accuracy to current testing methods for detecting gastroparesis (delayed gastric emptying), or slow-transit constipation, and may provide increased diagnostic gain compared with standard motility testing, such as gastric scintigraphy. The WMC is a small device that when swallowed can detect specific transit times in the stomach, small bowel, and colon. This device is a portable, one-time use, ingestible capsule that records and transmits data to a receiver as it travels through the gut. 

Gastroparesis affects more than 1.5 to 3 million Americans, and 15 to 20 percent of the U.S. population suffers from constipation. WMC could improve how clinicians test for gastroparesis or slow-transit constipation, because it’s small and can be transported to patients wherever they live. Also, the capsule does not involve any radioactive material or x-ray exposure, and can record information about pressure, transit, and location simultaneously. While the strength of evidence is low, the data were relatively consistent and suggested that WMC is no less sensitive than gastric scintigraphy. 

More research is needed to evaluate how the WMC should be used in combination with or instead of other testing modalities for evaluating slow-transit constipation and gastroparesis. Studies reporting patient-centered outcomes, such as the need for medications and additional tests, are also needed to see if testing helps to improve quality of life or symptom control. 

These findings can be found in the research review, Wireless Motility Capsule Versus Other Diagnostic Technologies for Evaluating Gastroparesis and Constipation: A Comparative Effectiveness Review at

Page last reviewed July 2013
Page originally created July 2013
Internet Citation: SmartPill equally effective at detecting gastroparesis and constipation. Content last reviewed July 2013. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.